AN ENGLISH history hunter has traced a brief message scribbled in an journal to a Bendigo hero recovering from World War One's horrors.
John Diaper has been searching for answers after finding a 104-year-old message from soldier Percival Reuben Carne while reading a leather-bound journal that has been in his family for generations.
The book is full of signatures, messages and artwork by soldiers recovering at the Third London General Hospital in the depths of the war.
"I'd like to make some connections with descendants of those who wrote in it," Mr Diaper said.
"Just so people know there was a time when their ancestor sat in a hospital bed, a million miles away from home, and might have had some sort of happiness compared to the years of horribleness they had to go through."
No-one is sure which one of Mr Diaper's ancestors was asking soldiers to write in the journal.
He suspects it was either his great grandmother or one of her sisters. Perhaps one of them either was a nurse or part of some kind of visitors' program designed to keep soldiers' moral up.
Whatever the case, Carne appears to have thought highly of them. Above his name are the words "wishing you every success in your noble and sacrificing efforts".
Mr Diaper did not know whether anyone would be able to shed any light on the 104-year-old message when he contacted the Bendigo Weekly four weeks ago from his home in Southampton, England.
Carne's is one of many stories he is uncovering in the journal. They are tales of courage, hardship and small acts of kindness that took place a very long way away from home.
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Historian Larna Malone researched Carne for her book The First Lot, which tracked Bendigo soldiers day-by-day through the Gallipoli campaign.
"He was a fascinating person, who apprenticed at the Hume & Iser store in Bendigo and pretty quickly upon enlisting was noted as a wonderful marksman," she said.
"When they got to Gallipoli he was appointed sniper for his company."
Carne detailed some of his experiences for the The Bendigonian newspaper that were published throughout the war.
He described entire days spent in a snipers' position that would have been exposed if not for sandbags 30cm high.
Sometimes, he and fellow snipers would spend three days watching specific parts of an enemy line, waiting to take a shot.
Their chance might have only lasted moments.
Carne had a number of near misses during that grinding and bloody campaign.
"He was buried by a shell explosion, he had to dig out some of his mates," Ms Malone said.
After five months of fighting, Carne was wounded and evacuated from Gallipoli to be treated for shock and ear trouble.
Ms Malone tracked said the campaign had a striking effect on Bendigo's first Anzacs.
"I went through every emotion possible, researching these men," she said.
"At first they were so gung-ho with everything they had been told, and that they were there for the King and Empire.
"It didn't take long - in fact it took the very first experience of battle - that that changed."
Carne recovered and returned to the war when Australian forces had reached the bloody trenches of western Europe.
He took a bullet in his arm during 1916's Battle of Pozieres while listed as part of a specialist scouting group.
Ms Malone was not surprised that he was injured in the battle, which saw as many Australian casualties in a few weeks as the entire Gallipoli campaign.
The carnage was awful," she said.
Carne was shipped to London to recover. It was there he wrote in Mr Diaper's family heirloom along with a lot of fellow Australians.
About 90 per cent of those who signed it appear to have been serving with Anzac forces, Mr Diaper says.
He continued to serve and would only return back to Australia in 1919 after five years of warfare.
Mr Diaper could not imagine what Carne and the many others who signed the journal must have endured.
"I can sit here and try to picture it but, in all honesty, I don't think we can ever truly understand what they went through," he said.
"Maybe we can understand little bits, though. That way they (the soldiers) are not forgotten."